19 August 2016

News from the Human Impact Partners: Research reports and successes!

From the HIP Newsletter, which is worth subscribing to.

Policy Victory! Oakland Says No to Coal, Citing Public Health Concerns

In June, the Oakland City Council voted against a plan to transport coal through a proposed bulk export terminal. A group of public health experts — including our Co-Director Jonathan Heller — released a critical report prior to the vote citing significant health risks of increased emissions of coal dust and diesel exhaust. The report played a key role in continuing public pressure and the final vote.

Council President Lynette Gibson McElhaney called for racial equity, not just in economic opportunities, but also in health outcomes, stating “It is outrageous to me that when we start talking about jobs for African Americans, for low-wage workers, they’re the dirtiest jobs, the most risky jobs, the jobs that we have to pay for with our bodies and shortened lives.” Developers tried falsely to claim that the city had a choice between jobs or protecting health and the environment, but the coal terminal would bring fewer jobs than the transport of other bulk materials through the port and these other materials pose less of a health risk for Oakland residents.

In addition to health impacts locally in Oakland, public officials were swayed by concerns over the worldwide effects of increased coal use on climate change. Emissions from the coal shipped through the proposed terminal would have constituted 0.6% of the world’s carbon budget. Senator Lori Hancock cited the public health study when she weighed in before the vote, claiming “if this happens, it will turn our state from being a worldwide leader of the growing green economy into the largest West Coast exporter of coal -- a major public health danger and greenhouse gas polluter.” HIP is proud to have contributed to this major policy win with clear public health impacts in Oakland and beyond.

Expanding Access to Preschool: Cincinnati’s Fork in the Road

HIP and our partners with the AMOS Project are excited to release The Health and Equity Impacts of Expanded Access to Preschool: Cincinnati’s Fork in the Road. The report set out to answer the question: How will expanding access to preschool affect the health and well-being of children, families, and other residents of Cincinnati?

Currently nearly half of Cincinnati’s children are starting from a disadvantage on their first day of kindergarten. The study shows that:
  • Children who have access to preschool could experience fewer challenges in school, leading to higher graduation rates and decreased crime rates.
  • Families could experience decreased parenting stress, child abuse, and neglect.
  • Cincinnati could benefit from more workers who are able to find employment at higher wages.
In conclusion: expanding access to preschool would improve the health of Cincinnati’s children and families, making Cincinnati a healthier, wealthier and more equitable city.

Specific recommendations from the report include: 
  1. Expand access to high-quality preschool to all children in Cincinnati
  2. Prioritize to reach those most in need, such as children living in poverty
  3. Assure high-quality preschools and teachers through adherence to preschool program training features that research has proven to be successful
  4. Utilize a trauma-informed approach to discipline that incorporates an understanding of the source of the behavior problem, in preschool and beyond, rather than zero-tolerance policies such as suspensions and expulsions
  5. Assure that high-quality preschools are geographically distributed throughout the city
For more information, you can read the following HIA documents:  

Scheduling Away Our Health

HIP, The Center for Popular Democracy, and Working Washington released Scheduling Away Our Health: How Unpredictable Work Hours Affect Health and Well-being, a research report analyzing how unpredictable work schedules affect the physical and mental health of workers and their families. As part of this work, we conducted a focus group in Seattle, learning how erratic schedules lead to income instability and stress for low-wage workers:

“There are days I can work a long day and they’ll only schedule me 4 hours as opposed to 8 hours. And so that’s getting kind of scary when it gets down to the wire, when I really don’t have any money and I don’t know if you’re going to schedule me for 15 hours this week or 4 hours. It’s just really hard to deal with.” – Holly, retail worker

The report also includes analysis of the 2014 General Social Survey. We found that workers with less advance notice of their schedules report worse overall health and more frequent mental health problems.

The report recommends the following, to help improve the health of these workers:
  • The ability to obtain advanced scheduling of 2-3 weeks
  • The right to rest 11 hours between shifts
  • The right to request scheduling accommodations
  • The right to have stable hours week-to-week

Connecting the Dots to Health: LACDPH Evaluation Report 

The Los Angeles County Department of Public Health hired HIP to conduct an external evaluation of two of its recently completed Rapid Health Impact Assessments (HIAs). The goal was to learn lessons from past HIAs and inform the work of the Health Impact Evaluation Center within the LACDPH.

Our report focused on HIAs for the following two programs:
  • Parks After Dark (PAD) — a comprehensive, cross-sector collaboration program designed to prevent violence and promote healthy and active living in parks.
  • Second Chance Women’s Re-Entry Court (WRC) — a specialized court-based jail diversion program that provides mental health treatment, substance use disorder treatment, and other social support services.

The evaluation found that both of these HIAs:
  • Helped increase local commitments to program funding
  • Found impacts on health determinants
  • Highlighted programs’ relationship to priority county topics
  • Strengthened existing and fostered new collaborations among government agencies
  • Helped change institutional mindsets and increase focus on health

You can access the executive summary and full report to read our full set of findings and recommendations from this project.

Public Health Departments in Criminal Justice Reform

“We can all agree that mass incarceration is a public health problem.” – interview participant from the California Department of Public Health

How can public health departments play a more significant role in criminal justice reform? With support from The California Endowment, we conducted focus groups and interviews with representatives from more than 20 local and state public health departments in California. We asked them about their current work related to criminal justice and what stops them from doing more. Our report — Public Health Departments in California and Criminal Justice System Reform:  Successes, Barriers, and Recommendations for Action — summarizes our findings and provides a set of recommendations for public health departments wanting to get more involved in criminal justice reform.


5 July 2016

Lessons about health impact assessment: Learning by Doing

VicHealth team presenting on their
equity focused health impact assessment
Last week I attended the final day of a Learning by Doing health impact assessment (HIA) training program. Learning by Doing is a structured six-day training program run by the Centre for Health Equity Training, Research and Evaluation (CHETRE), where I work. The training is broken up into distinct stages. People learn about HIA, go away and do the steps they've learned about, then come back to reflect and learn about the next steps in the process.

The final day is always great because the different groups who have been doing their HIAs present their work and their findings. There were five HIAs conducted in this round of Learning by Doing, which included the South Western Sydney Local Health District, the NSW Department of Family and Community Services, VicHealth, Liverpool City Council, the Think+Do Tank and community representatives.

Some of the stand-out lessons from the Learning by Doing sites were:
  • A lot of the value of HIA lies in highlighting and clarifying assumptions made during planning.
  • A planned engagement approach is useful as part of all HIAs.
  • Conceptual learning remains an important outcome of HIAs, in particular learning about health equity.
  • Involving consumers in HIAs has multiple practical benefits, such as identifying alternatives and providing an understanding of  context and history.
  • Scoping remains as critical as always - being rigorous but not biting off more than you can chew (it also reminded me of this paper about scoping in EIA).
  • Not all barriers can be overcome; you need to be realistic about what you can achieve within the limits of an HIA.
For more on CHETRE's work on health impact assessment go to HIA Connect. The Learning by Doing approach is described in greater detail in the chapter below:

Harris E, Harris-Roxas B, Harris P, Kemp L. “Learning by Doing”: Building Workforce Capacity to undertake HIA - An Australian case study, in O’Mullane M (ed) Integrating Health Impact Assessment into the Policy Process: Lessons and Experiences from around the World, Oxford University Press: Oxford, 2013, p 99-108. ISBN 9 7801 9963 9960 Google Books link

Cross-posted from my personal blog

14 March 2016

Communicating about equity in HIA

A great resource from SOPHIA:

The SOPHIA Equity Working Group has just released Communicating about Equity in HIA: A Guide for Practitioners
HIAs provide an opportunity to advance equity, but practitioners often struggle with how to effectively and strategically communicate about this core value of HIA. An effective approach to communication, including crafting a purposeful plan for the content and presentation of the HIA report and other materials, is fundamental to ensuring that HIAs can impact policies and support change.
This guide intends to aid HIA practitioners in their efforts to communicate about equity as an essential step towards advancing equity through practice.

Link to document

6 January 2016

HIA Practitioner Workshop in the U.S.A. in March

SOPHIA's HIA Practitioner Workshop (formerly HIA of the Americas) will take place March 7-8, 2016 at The California Endowment in Oakland, CA. The Workshop is intended for current practitioners of Health Impact Assessment interested in strategic field building. Attendees at the two-day workshop will learn and share ideas through presentations, and further the practice of HIA in small working groups.

Registration is now open through February 1, 2016. Please click here to submit your registration form.

The objectives of this two-day workshop are to:
Build a community of HIA practitioners by offering an intimate forum to network and share ideas and tools that elevate the practice of HIA; and
Promote excellence in HIA by sharing best practices, tackling challenging HIA related issues, and disseminating resources and work products developed by the working groups.

Please visit the SOPHIA website for the draft agenda, more details on registration, location and past workshops. We hope you can join us!